What’s Up Week 14: And the second quarter of 2019 begins

As we enter into the second quarter of 2019, things are finally seeming to get some balance as nothing seems to be too skewed to one category, which is how I’d like for this segment to go (but I know its only a rarity). Either way, I don’t deliberately do anything so it was all a relatively fun week.

READING

fables vol. 2

  • Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) Review
  • Fables Vol.2 Animal Farm

Currently reading: The Collection of Negatives

The Illuminae Files did not disappoint and actually its made me crave for some more sci-fi reading adventures (although I usually end up regretting it afterwards). Its the format and structure of this one that really works for me. Of course, I’m falling behind in the Goodreads Reading challenge with 8 books completed out of 40 (2 books behind..although one of the selections had 4 books together..so am I still behind?). I am also working on some of the other little things sitting around like graphic novels and such, which leads me to Fables Volume 2 Animal Farm. I like the Fables thing especially with Telltale Games The Wolf Among Us that really worked for me, sadly with the company’s shutdown, the sequel isn’t happening. Maybe some other company will pick up on the idea and adapt some game in that realm, we never know, right?

PLAYING

futuregrind

Currently playing: Omnicube, FutureGrind

Back to some previous titles that I put down and forgot to get back to. Surprisingly fun with company rather than solo even if these are single player games. They are more indie titles  and things that take priority. The first is a puzzle game called Omnicube which is about shifting colored boxes into their colored portals. It got pretty challenging after a while. As for FutureGrind, its a fun little arcade game where its a bit like Trials but with a two wheel bike that you have to rotate to go on the right colored rails. It sounds easy but things get a little harder. Both of them have a back story to it. Either way, I’ll be getting those playthroughs up on the channel soon :). I’ll be gaming more to build up some backlog for the second half of April when things get too hectic to even think about gaming, let alone editing.

WATCHING

incredible hulk

  • The 5th Wave
  • Gods of Egypt
  • The Incredible Hulk
  • Ouija

My double feature segment may be in order but I don’t always follow the order when watching it, mostly because my husband wouldn’t watch some of those movies with me so I bumped them backwards. Among a bunch of not so good movies (notice the pattern yet?), the standout this week has to go to The Incredible Hulk. I had the initial ambition of doing my own little Marvel marathon until I realized that I only had Phase 1 films from MCU and then Netflix pulled a lot of the older ones and I wasn’t going to rent or buy them so I quickly dismissed that idea. Anyways, I finally caught up with The Incredible Hulk which was the only Phase 1 movie that I hadn’t seen so now to catch up with the newer titles, starting with Spiderman Homecoming next in line.

BINGING

On My Block s2

  • On My Block (Season 2, 2019) Review

Currently binging: The Brightest Star in the Sky, The Singer 2019, Mr. Swimmer, Great Escape, The Legend of White Snake, Viva La Romance (Season 2), Master in the House

TV series is going to be the death of me. So many new ones, variety and drama, and they were all on my radar and came out at the same time. The Singer 2019 is hitting its finals so that is going to end soon and I’m still taking a break from Mr. Swimmer (probably will until I get another 4 more TV binges done to thin out the backlog more) however keeping it here so I don’t forget to finish it up. The issue with Great Escape and Viva La Romance Season 2 is that they are only able to watch full episodes on Mango TV app and that app isn’t compatible to Chromecast so its a pain to watch on the phone so I only watch it certain times of the day. My guess is Master in the House is going to be the same way as it seems Mango TV is taking this new approach probably to maximize their profits from their own app and not benefit YouTube. I get where they are coming from but its just inconvenient. With that out of the way, my fave series right now is The Brightest Star in the Sky and The Legend of White Snake which is currently streaming on Tencent app.

That’s it for this What’s Up!
The starts of the 2nd quarter has been pretty good!

What have you been watching/playing/reading/binging?

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TV Binge: On My Block (Season 2, 2019)

You can find the first season HERE.

***If you haven’t watched the first season and intend to, spoiler alert!!!***

On My Block (Season 2, 2019)

On My Block s2

Creators: Eddie Gonzalez, Jeremy Haft, Lauren Iungerich

Cast: Sierra Capri, Brett Gray, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao, Jessica Marie Garcia, Peggy Blow, Julio Macias, Danny Ramirez, Paula Garcés, Lisa Marcos, Reggie Austin

A coming-of-age story about four bright, street-savvy friends navigating their way through high school in the gritty inner city of South Central Los Angeles. Dealing with the danger of getting their friend out of a gang and friends turning into romance, danger is constant. – IMDB

Picking up after a cliffhanger ending in Season 1, Season 2 of On My Block resumes in the aftermath of the shooting that went on at Olivia’s Quincinera party. Suffice to say that On My Block lost one of the characters. The second season of On My Block is much more serious than the first one. It is about healing and picking up the pieces for everyone whether physically and mentally. Some like Monse (Sierra Capri) is trying to hold the group together as they all heal from the trauma; Ruben (Jason Genao) is healing physically and mentally in dealing with the event and losing someone he loves; Cesar (Diego Tinoco) is healing from guilt and the fact that he is dead to his brother (Julio Macias) and have no home while Jamal (Brett Gray), in his nervous personality, is stressing out how to share the news of finding the RollerWorld money and then, as a group, how to wash the money so they can now split it among the friends and use it.

On My Block

The second season of On My Block takes a shift in tone. While it still keeps the essence of each of these characters, the events of the first season has changed them. However, its a good thing because it was an inevitable stage of development that each of the characters needed to go through. In reality, its easy to see how each of their change makes sense. Each of them have their own burdens and have their own story. What  makes this season very bingeworthy is the fact that the show remembers to zoom into how certain relationships (friendship, love, bromance) is emphasized on further because its hard to not find that one person that is there or understands more than the next. The group is still a unit and they find their way back to each other all the time one way or another. Its that extra focus that adds a lot of depth to each of these characters.

The strength of the show is in how it treats each of these 4 young characters and Sierra Capri, Diego Tinoco, Jason Genao and Brett Gray bring them to life exceptionally. They give them each of their unique characteristics and they are characters that we want to see survive through all the difficult situations and choices they need to make. However, what makes them beautiful is that they remember that these are still teenagers and still give them some shenanigans that make them reflect their age and lack of experience in the real world. What makes it also very special is that its hard to tell who does a better job because as much as the story seems to focus on Cesar’s carryforward situation and he goes through possibly some of the biggest struggles here, his situation affects Monse’s decisions also while she struggles with her personal choices. At the same time, we can ignore that Ruben is also going through a lot and he has a whirlwind of situation as he tries to heal and move on which is much more inner process and we can’t forget Jamal, who doesn’t seem to be grounded in the other struggles but as the one that creates a lot of the comedic moments, has his share of glue that brings together the group because of these things that don’t feel as important.

On My Block

While the story remains strongly focused on these four friends, this season gives a lot more room for other supporting characters. The first season spent a lot of time for Olivia (who we now know is not part of the show) and Ruben’s grandmother played by Peggy Blow, who still has a focus and remains one of the most entertaining characters of the show. What did get a lot of attention this time and that gave her a new angle is Jasmine, played by Jessica Marie Garcia. There is a lot of potential for this character to grow because we’ve only seen one side of her in the first season and this season, she is given a whole new area to develop as she finds her bond in Ruben as she has a more positive outlook and happiness to her character that we see is one of her unique traits and makes her have something to teach these four as well. Other than that, we also see some more of the family members as they get extended appearances from Ruben’s mom to Monse’s father and of course, carrying from the first season, Cesar’s brother.

Overall, On My Block might not be quite the light and fun bingeworthy season that the first season one as its heavier in its themes. However, what makes it still be as great as the first one is that it takes the step to give these characters a lot of depth and growth from the things they have gone through and create bonds between each of them. I didn’t mention a lot of the bonds but a few fun ones do pop up and they also give the series a nice change in pace. If you have been watching this series, Season 2 will not disappoint and it’ll leave you looking forward to (hopefully) Season 3 (as I am right now..and waiting for the new that there will be one).

TV Binge: The Big Family Cooking Showdown (Season 2, 2018)

You can find the TV Binge for previous season below:

Season 1

The Big Family Cooking Showdown (Season 2, 2018)

the big family cooking showdown s2

Judges: Tommy Banks & Angellica Bell

If you had been following The Big Family Cooking Showdown, you would already know that they had announced a lot of changes in Season 2 prior to its airing. I’m not quite sure if it aired before it became a Netflix Original or not, but I believe its a BBC 2 show. Either way, other than just having the judges change, the show took away its hosts and let the judges take over that job as well. The structure of the competition has also changed. It still has some of the same challenges. This season, it separates into two parts essentially. The first 5 episodes is for two group of 4 families, where they end up having 2 families going into the play-offs, then the next 5 episodes is the second two groups of 4 families to fight for the two spots to the play-offs. Then the remaining is playoffs for the 4 families with 1 family eliminated, 1 family getting fast-track to the finals and the next last two fighting for the last finals spot.

big family cooking showdown s2

In terms of challenge, the 10 pound challenge remains as the kick-off challenge but with the added surprise element of doing the shopping on the spot and having to do their calculations and then if over, to give up whichever items. The first day wraps up with a known challenge of national dishes with a twist. After that, one family is eliminated. Day 2 has the 3 families in their next challenge where they choose one member to bake a dessert that they can choose the difficulty level which leads to a second challenge pre-known to make a two course meal (main dish and dessert). The playoffs are also structured over 2 days with the first having one spontaneous challenge called the pick ‘n mix challenge where the judges have one set ingredient and one member of each family chooses an ingredient from what is provided and they have to incorporate all the  ingredients into their dish with a minimal selection of spices, etc and wraps up the day with an indulgent treat meal (known in advance). There are following challenges of zero-waste (or as close to it as possible) meals and then the finale is essentially the same challenges as season one with a cooking spontaneous challenge followed by a 3 course meal.

After a huge description, we can go and break it down a little. Let’s start with the host/judges. Tommy Banks and Angellica Bell are really fun to watch. They work together well to create a nice dynamic. They have some puns and in general are a warmer experience and share a good knowledge of food and cooking throughout. They add in little discussions between and it makes for a nice idea of where they stand. As for the candidates, this is where the colors are. Its in the families that join who bring in the playfulness and spontaneous elements. Each of the families of 3 bring a different style and cooking mentality and its because of this and it brings in a lot of fun little moments. What works better in Season 2 is making it more focused on 4 families each time instead of doing them 2 families at a time like in the first season.

big family cooking showdown s2

In any cooking competition, its all about the challenges and the food. Its a good idea to put each day of the challenge with two of them where one is spontaneous and one is known before. Its a good bit to see which family works well even without practice and shows off some true creativity and skill. The spontaneous challenges are the ones that bring a lot more interesting elements to the competition. Its the ones that truly have that surprise factor also and have more issues that come up and chaos. Let’s be honest that perfect shows aren’t fun to watch and instead the chaos and overcoming those obstacles in whatever way is usually an enjoyable bit to see. Nothing works like a little bit of drama, right? In that sense, I think that might be where I’ve pinpointed the bits that don’t work so well here as the show at times feels a little bland. It might have to be that some parts, go by too long and then some go too fast and then there is a balance that sometimes isn’t balanced properly to make the show completely bingeworthy. Why I say that is that some food competitions like Zumbo’s Just Desserts, I can go back and watch it over and over again knowing the results but for The Big Family Cooking Showdown, I was lukewarm with Season 1 and didn’t rewatch it and then this Season 2 although I have some families that I really liked and the elements technically all work together, something never made me want to watch more than an episode or two and stop, nor do I have that urge to go back and watch it again. There’s something missing and I can’t quite pinpoint what it is. Perhaps its the same home footages of the families that repeat itself over and over again as well. Its definitely heading in the right direction though. If Season 3 happens, I’m hoping that there are some additional changes to make it even better.

Have you seen The Big Family Cooking Showdown?

TV Binge: Queer Eye (Season 3, 2019)

Queer Eye (Season 3, 2019)

Queer Eye

Hosts: Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Tan France

The third season of Queer Eye is finally here! If you read my Queer Eye Season 1 TV Binge (you can find it HERE), I’m a huge fan of the show. I’ve probably watched seasons 1 and 2 a good five times on and off. So good that I spent so much time rewatching it and haven’t written up the Season 2 TV binge. I did debate doing it first but oh well, let’s stay current and catch up later, right?

Season 3 moves the Fab Five to a new city. This time, they are helping out people in Kansus City, Missouri! Its nice to change the location, even if it means nothing to me because I don’t live in the US. However, other than location, there is a few little changes here and there which are subtle but contribute a lot to making this show even more powerful and effective than before. It didn’t really need to change anything but whatever it did, has given it a smoother execution.

queer eye s3 1

First of all, after 2 seasons, the Fab Five in Season 3 has really found their place in each of their domains. They jive together well and even better than before, making them even more genuine to watch and having that feeling of being approachable and knowledgeable makes their distance and a lot of the candidates undergoing these makeovers as they tell their stories even more relevant.  It is their dynamic and their experiences that lend to each of these stories and adds that personal touch. Its also the mesh of the more fun elements of the actual makeover and  then the more emotional elements of the candidates back stories and how they got to the place that they are in and the inner battles they have. Its the balance that the Fab Five and the show as achieved that makes the the more intriguing to watch.

The second thing that works here is that the show always picks a good balance of people doing it. They have zero boundaries in that sense. We see people of all ages, gender and race and then are able to see how they can help each of them improve themselves. This works because it also emphasizes that people shouldn’t see each other’s differences but rather see our similarities and that everyone tackles a lot of the same problems. It also works a lot on tackling feelings and inner (more psychological) issues while upgrading and educating on the outside beauty. It helps that Fab Five are genuinely supportive, encouraging and positive. The diversity of the people and families involved here make it really great to watch. In previous seasons, there was a bigger gap between how one story to the next would translate and connect but in this season, the stories all land in their own way, tugging those heart strings, breaking those boundaries and taking strides towards viewing this world and understanding the difficulties that a lot of people face and the hurdles that make them fall behind and need that nudge to move forward again in the right direction to find themselves, their identity and their confidence, etc.

queer eye s3

The last point is that each of these stories seem to have this family/relationship theme revolving around it. It is one of those subtle changes but a lot of these stories is about their family members or someone close nominating them due to whatever reason or anticipating an event or just being better for themselves so they can be their best selves for the next step in their lives. Its because of the choices in whose stories are told and those different stages in life that make them more poignant and touching.

Queer Eye has reached Season 3 and this is the best season so far. The Fab Five are great together and provide both heartwarming moments and comedic ones as well. Its a warm and show that aims to spread love and a lot of positive messages about acceptance in the society. Its one that needs a box of Kleenex but in such a satisfying way. Its bingeworthy and I can’t wait for the next season.

Have you seen Queer Eye Season 3 yet?

TV Binge: Nailed It! Mexico (Season 1, 2019)

If you’ve missed my reviews of the original American Netflix version, here are my reviews:

Nailed It! (Season 1)
Nailed It! (Season 2)
Nailed It! Holidays

Nailed It! Mexico (Season 1, 2019)

Nailed It Mexico

Hosts: Omar Chappuro & Anna Ruiz

Hosted by Omar Chaparro and head judge Anna Ruiz, home bakers in Mexico with a terrible track record take a shot at recreating edible masterpieces for a $10,000 prize. It’s part competition, part hot mess. – IMDB

After the massive success of Nailed It! on Netflix Original series that has gone through 2 seasons, brought in a special Queer Eye episode and then a holidays version, it has now expanded internationally with its first stop with Nailed It! Mexico. I’m always a big supporter of Netflix working around its own Netflix’s international grab and expanding its show, just like how it did the international cooking show, The Final Table or obstacles competition, Ultimate Beastmaster, which proves that its a foundation that has endless possibilities and a way to truly expose the world to different cultures and well, just each other. Plus, Nailed It! is a great idea because it breaks out from the professional version of things and takes a more relaxed and amateur approach to things while still keeping itself educational.

nailed it mexico

Nailed It! Mexico honestly was a lot of the same as Nailed It! for USA. That is a good and bad thing. The good is that it keeps a certain type of humor and joke that runs throughout. It makes it more united and keeps it fun to watch. It uses Nailed It! signatures, like the golden hat for the winner of the first round or the same trophy design. However, going international as I mentioned gives a look at culture and while pop culture and its guests go hand in hand to expose some of their talents there in the baking and celebrity and/or foodie world, the baking designs are also with Mexican culture and themes for example something as simple as incorporation a pinata or the quinceanera. What also works here is that the first episode sets up the Mexican version to be on a higher baking knowledge especially looking at the same structure but more seemingly complicated desserts and designs.

nailed it mexico

There are a few “bad” things here. The bad is that it lacks a uniqueness other than location and language to give Mexico’s version its own distinction. Its something that is important to for someone like myself who watches all of it.  It likes reusing the bits like having those funky buttons like having Omar Chaparro take over the nagging duties and inviting Sylvia Weinstock as a foreign guest to link the two together while doing her little “stealing” things from the pantry bit and her witty remarks; also the trophy never being there for the announcement and reappearing from weird spots, etc. This all works well enough except when doing something like that, it becomes Nailed It signatures and yet, its easily going to be compared with its US original, which has an upperhand (in my opinion, because of Nicole Byers having that charisma she brings to the show).

With all that said, looking at both sides, Nailed It Mexico is a lot of the same, but that isn’t a bad thing because I had the same criticism about the second one going into an odd direction which didn’t work. In comparison, the complexity and different humor might sometimes get lost in translation however, the entertainment of Nailed It has always been looking at the funny failures (and learning from them) and with that, the Mexican version still delivers in spades.

TV Binge: Sugar Rush (Season 1, 2018)

Sugar Rush (Season 1, 2018)

sugar rush

Host: Hunter March
Judges: Candace Nelson & Adriano Zumbo

A baking competition with 4 teams, 3 rounds, 2 cakes and 1 winner of $10,000. – IMDB

Netflix seems to be having all those cooking shows covered with it having focus on chef’s via Chef’s Table (review), food culture documentary with Ugly Delicious, then amateur baking competition with Nailed It! (review) and professional cooking global competition with The Final Table (review) and during the summer, it covered some professional baking competition with Sugar Rush.

This show is all about time being the biggest factor where the first two rounds done in a quick way will save up time to add to the final round for the cake round. The setup goes as such where 4 teams of two start the competition. The judges give the first two rounds theme and requirements at the beginning over a 3 hour cooking time. The first is a cupcake, the second is a confection. When all four teams have completed the cupcake, the judges deliberate on who gets eliminated while the teams make the confections. After the confection round, the judges share who gets eliminated and the final two teams hear the theme of their cake round as well as how much total time they have. The team with more time starts first whereas the second team watches and waits for their cue to start.

Looking at the structure of Sugar Rush, it sure seems like a brutal feeling for the teams especially in the first two rounds. Mostly because sometimes a team can be fast and be almost even done their confection but then be eliminated. Its quite sad to see but then the teams all do show a great deal of creativity and skills and that is best showed off in a restrained time frame. It is about finding a balance and weighing the risks with each creation. For that, the structure is solid and possibly one of the competitions that I don’t have many issues in that regards as it feels engaging to watch especially with time as the element which, bar a few baking technical issues, the teams fate was related to their own ambitiousness and how much time they had left.

If we look at the judges and the host along with its guests throughout the eight episodes in the first season, they have quite a few known names. Probably not related to baking directly but more “everyday” people instead of the judges who are experts in their own fields whether in baking or cupcakes or confections or sweets in general. Of course, “everyday” because who would call Betsy Johnson an everyday person, right? Just a quick example. However, it adds this normalcy to the show making it focusing not only on the taste but also the creativity behind the projects feeling like there is this well-rounded look at each baking creation. Candace Nelson and Adriano Zumbo also complement each other well enough. At the same time, I personally thought Hunter March did a great job at being an energetic and dynamic host for the show. I went away remembering the unique way he emphasized “ten thousand dollars” so that was really fun.

Overall, Sugar Rush is a fun baking competition. There are some great pieces made here. These are professional bakers with most of them having their own business or working in the industry one way or another. The judges are experts in their fields whereas the guests are also quite good with their critiques and comments and had a good mix of being part of the industry and some more celebrity and different fields. Its a nice balance of each human element. In terms of structure, it truly embraces the time element being its biggest factor and keeps that in mind. Time also adds this nerve wracking element to any competition as its always present but this one also gives a bit of control to how much time is saved in the hands of its competitors which is a nice twist.

Definitely looking forward to a second season of Sugar Rush and hoping it happens although I don’t recall seeing any news as of yet. If you do know whether its happening that I missed, do tell me in the comments. 🙂

Christmas 2018: The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar (2018)

The Holiday Calendar

Director: Bradley Walsh

Cast: Kat Graham, Quincy Brown, Ethan Peck, Ron Cephas Jones, Genelle Williams, Ali Hassan, Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll

A struggling but talented photographer inherits an antique holiday advent calendar, the contents of which seem to predict the future. Will this magical calendar lead her to love this holiday season? – IMDB

I’m going to be honest that I really only gave this one a chance because I really like Kat Graham in The Vampire Diaries. However, I wasn’t as much of a fan of her in Honey 2 so while I don’t know what The Holiday Calendar was about, I decided to take a chance anyways. I do want to say that on one side, I did work for what it was trying to deliver but if you really don’t have much tolerance for these kind of Hallmark films, then it might not be for you. I’m just going to lay it out so you don’t waste your time. I say this because The Holiday Calendar does nothing special. Everything you predict will probably happen right down to who she ends up being with in the end and even how she pieces together the “magic” calendar to the things she missed to leading her to the one. However, while being predictable isn’t particularly a good thing, there is enough fun bits here to make it enjoyable. Its heartwarming and talks about family and dreams and careers and taking chances and not just romance.

The Holiday Calendar

While the antique calendar itself has something of a spirit here in the background with a lot of presence because the film flows with what pops up in the window everyday, the movie does benefit a lot from Kat Graham who does a great job as Abby, a girl who is stuck at a day job that pays her bills but scared to live her own dreams. There’s this really fun element to her character and her friendship with Josh (Quincy Jones) has a lot of sweet moments to it also. Surprisingly, the parts that I liked the best are the ones where Abby talks to her grandfather because there is a lot of genuine and good bits to it all. The family moments and the picture moments and those bits also add to the experience.

The only thing I did feel about The Holiday Calendar is that there is this turning point moment in the middle which felt kind of awkward. It was this weird epiphany moment that kind of felt out of spot but it didn’t really last too long before things got back on track. If you like Hallmark holiday films, this one is pretty alright. Its pretty predictable but also has a nice heartwarming element and emphasizes on more than romance but also on family moments and a lot of Christmas-y moments.